Last Christmas I remember travelling with one of our social workers to a family home in Lower Hutt with a Christmas hamper from The Mission.
It was one day before Christmas Eve and the mother greeted us, looking weary as she had just finished shift work. The father was just getting dressed to start his shift.
Then their youngest child wrapped her arms around her father’s legs,trying to stop him going, encouraging him instead to stay home and unwrap the newly arrived hamper.
Despite holding two full time jobs between them, this family simply can’t make ends meet. They are one of thousands of families across New Zealand who experience working poverty every day; simply put, the minimum wage for these families does not provide the parents or their children enough income to live healthy and full lives.
These parents have less time to spend with their children and community because they have to work two or sometimes three jobs. Should their work keep them in poverty, or lift them out of it?
Aotearoa Livng Wage Campaign
Recently the Service and Food Workers Union with support with community organisations across New Zealand launched the Aotearoa Living Wage Campaign, to address working poverty in our country.
It’s not new. Just over ten years ago in 2001, London launched their living wage campaign. Initially it was dismissed as impossible, but now has over 140 employers, including KPMG, Linklaters and the Olympics Authority. Professor Jane Wills of Queen Mary, University of London, estimates that over 10,000 families have now been lifted out of working poverty as a direct result of the living wage campaign.
In 2010, they launched the Living Wage Foundation to support the growth of the living wage across the UK. It’s become part of their economic landscape, and we desperately need it here to address our growing poverty and income inequality.
Simply put, the living wage enables workers to live with dignity. Working families shouldn’t have to rely on budgeting and food parcel services, and the stress and stigmatism that often go with this, just to survive. This campaign, which cannot be a passing fad if it is to achieve its goal, needs our voice individually and collectively. To find out more, visit ww